Demanding an Encore A GROWING NUMBER OF 60-PLUS FOLKS INSIST ON GETTING THE GREATEST RETURN ON THEIR EXPERIENCE by Samuel H. Shafer
ock Brandis worked for over 30 years in Hollywood as a lighting director, a position that required a can-do attitude and problem-solving abilities. But after losing his wife in his early 60s, he felt the need to take some time off. Traveling to Mali to help a friend fix a solar-powered water system, he witnessed women in the marketplace laboriously shelling peanuts,
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often with bloodied fingers. Moved by their challenges, he returned home to tinker with creating a nut sheller, a mechanism that would increase the women’s shelling efficiency and give them greater prosperity. Months later he returned to Mali with a simple but entirely new type of machine. Called the Universal Nut Sheller, it costs $28 to manufacture
and has revolutionized the shelling of peanuts and other hard beans, nuts, and seeds. Brandis’ ideas have since blossomed into an array of nonprofit activities. Reflecting on what he still wants to accomplish, Brandis says, “I’m in a hurry. If I had been doing this when I was 35, I would have all the time in the world to get it done. I
want to do water and wind and solar, and I’m not going to be able to do them all.” In 2008, Jock Brandis was awarded $100,000 as a Civic Ventures Purpose Prize winner for the contributions he has made in his “encore career.”
Civic Ventures Civic Ventures is a think tank
and incubator for generating ideas and creating opportunities to help society achieve the greatest return on experience. The organization was co-founded in the late 1990s by social entrepreneurs John Gardner and Marc Freedman. As the visionary founder of Common Cause, a citizens’ advocacy group, Gardner was noted for saying, “The nation today faces breathtaking opportunities disguised as insoluble problems.” Marc Freedman is the CEO of Civic Ventures and the author of the popular book Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life. Gardner and Freedman could foresee a fast approaching demographic wave that would either crash over the nation’s head or lift the country up to meet the challenges of our time. That wave was the boomer generation which was beginning to enter the retirement years. They launched Civic Ventures to reframe the debate about aging and
redefine the autumn season of life as a time of social and individual renewal. Through inventive programming, original research, strategic alliances, conferences, publishing, and the power of people’s stories, Civic Ventures reports on and promotes the experience movement. The organization gathers older adults with a passion for service and helps stimulate opportunities for harnessing their talents in order to revolutionize retirement and transform their communities, the nation, and the world. Each year Civic Ventures awards Purpose Prizes to people over 60 who are making extraordinary contributions via their encore careers. The annual summit conferences, where the Purpose Prizes are awarded, are attended by 300-400 people involved in making their own encore contributions, people from every walk of life with broad visions and a pen-
Henrietta Mann believes that Native American youths must have a solid education that reflects their culture, history, government, and language in order to provide leadership for their communities. But after spending nearly four decades in public higher education, Mann was weary of seeing the
chant for “getting things done.” The weekend gathering crackles with creative energy and continuous exchange of ideas. What dominates the summit conversations is the search for better practices and ways that attendees can collaborate to expand or help realize each other’s visions. These are people who believe the world can be changed and insist on being part of that change.
Why the encore phenomenon? A confluence of factors has allowed for the emergence of the encore movement. Medical advances have increased average life expectancy to the late 70s, and better diets and exercise have contributed to a healthier generation of retirees. A substantial number of the boomers possess the economic freedom to explore new vistas in their remaining years. Many of those who don't, due to the severity of the recent financial crisis and the subsequent loss of retirement savings, are willing
continuing achievement gap of Native American students. So she founded the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal College (CATC) to ensure that Native Americans have culturally based education opportunities which are not offered to them elsewhere. Starting in 2006 with just one
student, CATC now has 110 students from 17 tribes. The college is currently hosted by Southwestern Oklahoma State University, but in the next five years Mann plans to build an environmentally friendly campus for CATC.
to continue working, even at lower-paying jobs, if it means shorter hours, flexible conditions, and more meaningful work. Older Americans who choose to turn their backs on traditional retirement enter what author Richard Bolles (of the What Color is Your Parachute? books) describes as the outer circle of a work life. Bolles characterizes our work lives as a series of concentric circles. For a Christian, the center of the circle is the vocational call to serve Christ in all facets of life. The second ring involves finding a job that puts bread on the table. The third ring is for those who have the luxury of choosing a career most in line with their passions, knowledge, natural talents, and experience. Finally, there is the outer circle, in which people begin to deeply explore their life work and the purpose for which they have been put on earth. This is the realm many of
Herb “Coach” Sanders is the executive director of Full Count Baseball Ministry, a nonprofit organization in Denver, Colo. The ministry teaches youth to model responsible behavior by utilizing the fundamentals of baseball. Sanders spent a number of years working with the Colorado
After 28 years of raising a family abroad while working in real estate development, Adrienne Houel decided to create new solutions to the economic plight that plagued her hometown of Fairfield, Conn. Houel is tackling two of the most pressing needs of low-income urban neighborhoods: clean, affordable housing and steady employment.
DR. ARTHUR AMMANN
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Department of Juvenile Corrections. However, later in his life he made a bold decision to leave behind the security of his public employment and answer a call to Christian ministry. This new direction first led him to the position of program director for a prison ministry providing mentors
Having served many years as a healthcare executive, Ed Speedling became aware of a yearning to work with people on the margins of life. After weeks of family discussions and personal reflection, he joined the staff at St John’s Hospice, a shelter for homeless men in
First, Houel helped create and now runs an affordable housing development outfit in Connecticut called Fairfield County Housing Partnership Inc., which specializes in environmentally friendly, or green, building. In 2006 she launched the Greater Bridgeport Community Enterprises Inc. Green Team, which partners with small businesses to create
When Arthur Ammann and his colleagues discovered children suffering from AIDS in 1982, little was known about the disease. Today, more than two dozen drugs treat those infected by HIV. In resourcepoor countries, however, the HIV epidemic continues to spread wildly, particularly among women and children.
to inmates. As his journey continued, Sanders started mentoring with Save Our Youth and served as a youth pastor for Berean Bible Church. In addition to founding Full Count Baseball, he has served as a varsity baseball coach at public high schools since 1993.
Philadelphia. A few years later he accepted a position with the Outreach Coordination Center at Project H.O.M.E., where he would address the needs of people living on the city streets. Today, as Speedling reflects over his 10-year encore career, he says, “My life’s journey has
job opportunities in the growing green sector and then trains unemployed residents to fill those jobs: 27 green jobs have been created in areas such as carpentry and weatherization, and 125 people have been trained in three years through the program.
At age 62, Ammann left his job as president of the American Foundation for AIDS Research in 1998 and founded Global Strategies for HIV Prevention, to bring life-saving drugs to people in underserved regions. Since then Global Strategies has raised $22 million for HIV prevention, trained 5,500 healthcare workers,
led me to places I never thought I would go and into relationships with people I would have only known from afar. I have been blessed to work shoulder to shoulder with people from all walks of life who know ‘It is in the shelter of each other that people live.’”
and given drugs or HIV testing kits to 85,000 women in Congo, Liberia, Cambodia, South Africa, and the Dominican Republic. Ammann’s next project is to partner with lawyers and advocates in those areas to address gender inequality and rape, the root causes of HIV transmission.
Marc Fre e dman, founder and CEO of Civic Ventures, has written a trio of books (all published by Public Af fair s B o o k s) o n th e subject of living a purposeful life in the later years. Prime Time: How Baby Boomers Will Revolutionize R e ti re m e nt a n d Transform America (2002) provides a new vision on aging, retirement, and the role of older Americans in the 21st century. Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life (2007) shows how baby boomers are today’s seniors have been permitted to enter–should they choose to do so. This can be a culmination of a childhood dream or vocational calling, or the application of knowledge/skills accumulated throughout years of work experience. Within this circle is what Frederick Buechner refers to as “that place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet..” People of faith might reflect on whether the concept of retirement is biblical. The psalmist gives us something to consider in this declaration, which reveals that he assumes he’ll be working for God’s kingdom until his dying day: “So even to old age and gray hairs, O’ God, do not forsake me, till I proclaim thy might to all generations to come” (71:18). While our culture has long purported that proof of worldly success is an early retirement filled with golf and leisure, a study published in the winter 2010 edition of the Journal of Economic Perspectives suggests that avoiding retirement may be the smartest choice. In “Mental Retirement,” two economists claim that their data–gathered from the United States and 12 European countries– indicate that the earlier people retire the faster their memories decline. This should make the idea of an encore career even more attractive. Sidney Harman could be a poster child for the encore career movement. In the 1950s he and a fellow engineer founded the audio industry firm Harman Kardon. With an estimated fortune of $500 million, Harman has no economic reason to continue working, yet last year he purchased the struggling Newsweek magazine. Why take on such an endeavor? He reasons that Newsweek is a “national treasure” and that journalism needs to be revived. His daughter puts it more succinctly: “[My father] is a man who needs a project.” Or, as Harman told the New York
r e j e c t i n g conventional notions of retirement and crossing into a new stage of work—and how their energy is transforming what work means for all Americans. His latest book, due out in April, is The Big Shift: Navigating the Ne w State Between Midlife and Old Age. It uses personal stories, visionary thinking, and practical advice to offer a new perspective to people entering their 40s, 50s, and 60s and asking "What's next?" Times, “Retirement is the enemy of longevity.” Mr. Harman is 92.
The church People of faith understand best the idea that every life has a unique purpose designed by God. As Henry Emerson Fosdick once asked, “Can an architect design a beautiful house with no plan for the inside?” As the demographic wave of boomers approaches retirement age, the church is in a unique position to help Christians define and pursue their callings. Churches are natural intersections for connecting what God is doing in the world with the “callings” that are stirring in people’s hearts. The church would benefit from understanding the extent that materialism has obscured the idea of calling and influenced the destiny of our nation. In the late 1600s the Reformation expanded the understanding of “calling” to include all people, the political philosophers were formulating the foundational tenants for individual freedom and democracy, and mercantilism was expanding the base of capitalistic enterprise to include more individuals than ever before. These three forces coalesced in a way that would eventually give the individual in Western civilization greater freedom and prosperity than had previously been known in history. However, it was during this period that Cotton Mather penned the prophetic words that clearly speak to the plight of our day and age: “Unless there is a vigilance, a sense of calling will bring forth prosperity only to result in prosperity destroying the sense of calling.” The wave of aging boomers represents a historical opportunity for the church to help turn around the cultural drift into materialism. The church can be a potent force in helping millions of its members redis-
cover their callings, identify their unique gifts, and provide avenues for unleashing their energy into the fields of mission and ministry. With its vast reservoir of workers, the church can collaborate with a group like Civic Ventures, which, through its Encore affiliate (Encore. org), offers a repository of research, inspirational stories of individuals and organizations, and opportunities to collaborate with creative and dynamic leaders who are actively addressing the needs of our time. Those US churches that are unleashing creative ministry and mission into the world appear to possess two common threads. First, they have a clear understanding that God’s kingdom is unfolding “out there”–in the world–where today’s church needs to be. The antithesis of the “if you build it they will come” approach, going out into the world with authentic word and deed speaks to the minds and hearts of broken, disillusioned, and hurting people. Second, these churches are entrepreneurial. Two essential components of entrepreneurialism are faith and courage, both of which are required to move into new and uncharted territories. Church leaders who follow in the footsteps of Christ value risk-taking and encourage members to be on the cutting edge of new endeavors–the place where good ideas flourish and even failed ideas make clearer the direction of success.
Labor of love The boomer generation is equipped to apply its time, energy, experience, wisdom, and resources to problems that cannot be addressed by dollars alone. New approaches, scientific breakthroughs, and a passion for innovation are needed to address the obstacles to human flourishing. Public servants, teachers, coaches, tutors, mentors, and caregivers are much needed for vulnerable populations of all ages. When aging boomers overcome their commitment to consumption and security and give themselves permission to pursue a labor of love, they discover a renewed passion for life and a new kind of work satisfaction. Theologian Karl Barth once remarked, “As if it were permissible to freeze or solidify at the point where the river of responsibility should flow more torrentially than ever in view of the approaching falls, of the proximity of the coming Judge!” Thanks to the generosity of our God, we often experience the greatest satisfaction when we are living most closely aligned with his will. So while serving God with the whole of our beings for the duration of our lives is a responsibility, it is also a joy. An encore career is God’s invitation to linger at his banqueting table long into the night. Sam Shafer, an Episcopal priest, has served in the church and as the executive director of a state-wide prison ministry. His present passion is to inspire people of all ages to identify their callings, develop their gifts, and connect them with opportunities for service. He teaches a six-week course entitled “Called to Serve” and is currently writing a book on the subject.
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ARE YOU PURPOSE DRIVEN? Are you or someone you know a purpose-driven senior? Civic Ventures is now taking nominations for the 2011 Purpose Prize. Go to Encore. org/prize/nominate to submit your nomination by March 10.
IDEAS FOR CHANGE Policy solutions that would make encore work easier for more people: z access to affordable healthcare z an end to financial penalties for continuing to work while receiving a pension z online resources to help people learn how to locate opportunities and transition into them z accelerated education or retraining programs for experienced people interested in learning new ways to use their skills in work that benefits their community z programs that help match people who want to transition to working for nonprofits and government agencies with employers who are interested in these job seekers z services that aid people interested in making a career transition in their second half of life z midlife internships so people can try out new careers z loan forgiveness for people who need more education or retraining to work in areas of greater societal need